Friday, December 01, 2006

Moving to an all-digital manga workflow

I recently got a Wacom Cintiq 21UX, which is a computer monitor with a touch-sensitive surface. With a special stylus, you can draw directly on the screen, so unlike a pen tablet, you have the benefit of being able to see what you’re scribbling.

This means that there’s no more paper.

You don’t have to wait for the ink to dry or deal with ink smudges. You’re immune from catastrophies such as knocking over ink bottles onto your work, and there’s no need to fuss over your sweat softening the paper on a hot day, causing the pen nib to get caught or the ink to bleed.

Because all the work is done on the computer, inked drawings are as easily “erasable” as pencil. Your arms are spared the fatigue from erasing many pages worth of penciled sketches because now you can simply delete the pencil layer of your graphics file with one keystroke. The need for a scanner also disappears, along with the practical considerations of scanning, like the tedious removal of scan noise.

Archiving your work becomes easier, so long as you’re comfortable with the backup and management of digital files. You don’t have to worry about keeping stock of paper and ink and about the physical storage of your finished work.

It’s pure digital bliss.

Of course, this tool is not without its issues. For one thing, the friction between the stylus and the screen is very different from a pen nib on paper. You get a lot of friction and feedback on paper, but on the Cintiq it’s going to feel a bit slippery. You also need to keep in mind some issues when drawing at different scales. For example, if you make a curve while zoomed out, you may find that the curve is actually jagged when you zoom in. But you’ll eventually get used to these things, and sometimes even use them to your advantage. It’s truly a revolutionary tool for graphic artists.

The math manga book that I’m working on now is my first big project using the Cintiq. I’ve come up with a new all-digital workflow, so we’ll see how this goes.


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